Southern “Peppa Sauce” (Pepper Vinegar)


As a kid, when we moved to Georgia, I started noticing many restaurants had bottles filled with little peppers and clear liquid. It became pretty clear all the “country,” “southern,” “soul,” and “barbecue” restaurants always had a bottle at every table.

I came to learn it’s a classic southern condiment known as Pepper Sauce, aka Pepper Vinegar. It’s a must on collards and all manner of greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, pulled pork sandwiches, fried chicken, and much more.

It was probably a few years before I worked up the courage to try it. (I think my older brother probably dared me.) And then it wasn’t quite as hot as I expected (though certainly it can be given a switch-up on the pepper variety to do so); it also is a bit sweet and salty. (There’s some sugar and salt in the traditional recipe but you’re free to omit.)

The peppers are usually Tabasco peppers but it of course tastes and looks quite different from “Tabasco Sauce.” If you can’t find Tabascos or want to modify the heat or flavor, try other small peppers like Birdseye, Piquin (the tiny dried ones shown below), Szechuan, or others. I would love to try this with charapitas!

The peppers can be dried varieties too, like Pequin found at most Latin-American grocers, but you’ll want to prepare a little extra vinegar as the dried varieties absorb more liquid.

Homegrown Tabasco on the left, Pequin on the right!

Some people cut a slit in them to allow the heat to release but I don’t bother and doubt it matters much. It’s worth noting you can re-use the peppers a few times (keeping them in the bottle and adding more vinegar when you run out) until they no longer produce the heat level you want.

Last thing I’ll say is you can tweak the flavor, such as adding a clove or two of garlic (halved to fit as needed) or a few peppercorns, etc. The recipe below is for the classic though.

This recipe is to make a couple 5 oz. woozy bottles of pepper vinegar (or a 10oz. bottle like this); whatever you choose, I advise bottles with the dripper insert so the peppers don’t shoot out.

You will need:


  • Peppers sufficient to fill the bottle(s) (or just go halfway for more vinegar)
  • 1 cup white vinegar (or substitute partly or fully with white wine vinegar)
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp salt


1.) Make sure all bottles and equipment are very clean. Fill the bottle(s) with the peppers until the desired level.

2.) In the saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and bring to a boil, stirring periodically.

3.) While still boiling, transfer the vinegar to the bottle using the bottling funnel.

4.) Cap tightly and allow to stand until room temperature. The transfer to fridge and let sit for at least 24 hours.


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  1. Perfect Recipe!

  2. Randy Gogolin

    So have you ever weighed a woozy, tared it out. Filled it with little peppers and water, weighed it again and added 2% salt? fermented ‘peppa sauce’ ?

    • I love that idea. I’ve done something similar by making a fermented mignonette instead of with vinegar. But there’s no need to tare out the bottle. I do all brine ferments based solely on the weight of the water. In this case, I’d probably go with something salty but not off-putting, like 3.5%. Too low salt with peppers can be risky. The other difference from a traditional vinegar peppa sauce recipe is you really need everything submerged under the brine for lacto-fermentation. That’s how I did the mignonette. And then when it was ready, I strained the flavored brine from the shallots and spices (these had all been submerged by being wrapped in a mesh bag with a glass weight on top).


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